On this post, a Minnesota Duluth-Union College game story, a Kenny Reiter sidebar and a Yale-Air Force recap, so keep reading:
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. â€” Minnesota Duluth prefers a skating game, but if grind-it-out is required, the Bulldogs will oblige.
No. 9-ranked UMD blocked 20 shots, won 33 face offs, stopped all nine power plays against the best Division I power-play team and got power-play goals from senior wingers Kyle Schmidt and Justin Fontaine. Junior goalie Kenny Reiter did his part in stopping all 32 shots he faced Friday afternoon.
That added up to a 2-0 win over No. 8 Union College of Schenectady, N.Y., in an NCAA East Regional menâ€™s hockey semifinal game at Webster Bank Arena.
It was the opening game of the 16-team tournament and put the Bulldogs (23-10-6) into todayâ€™s 5:30 p.m. CDT title game against top-ranked Yale (28-6-1). Yale defeated Air Force 2-1 in overtime in the second semifinal game.
UMD is in a regional final for the second time in three years, while Union (26-10-4) was eliminated in its first NCAA playoff game since moving to Division I in 1991-92. The Bulldogs were eliminated by Miami of Ohio 2-1 in 2009 in the West Regional in Minneapolis.
â€œWe had an opportunity to get to the Frozen Four two years ago which we let slip away. Weâ€™ve wanted another chance ever since and winning (Friday) was a huge character builder. This is goal weâ€™ve had all season to get in a position to go to St. Paul (for the 2011 Frozen Four),â€ said Fontaine, who has 21 goals this season and 61 in four years at UMD.
Union College came into the tournament after setting single-season program statistical bests in almost every category, including win a first Eastern College Athletic Conference regular-season title, one point ahead of Yale. The Dutchmen had a power-play efficiency of 31.1 percent, easily the top mark in Division I. Union got a chance with an extra man immediately as UMD took a penalty 29 seconds into the game when the Hockey East referees called a penalty. UMD defused that one, and the rest, which created 17 power-play shots on goal.
Reiter and his penalty killers and shot blockers were superb. It was his third shutout of the season.
â€œWe had some good opportunities and at no point did we lose confidence or think we were out of it,â€ said Union senior defenseman and captain Brock Matheson. â€œBut we did lose a lot of one-on-one battles and their goalie was good. In the third period we were all feeling desperation.â€
After stopping three opposing power play in the gameâ€™s first nine minutes, the Bulldogs got their first try. The puck went from Mike Seidel, to Mike Montgomery to Travis Oleksuk near the goal. Oleksuk tipped it to Schmidt and he tipped the puck past ECAC goalie of the year, 6-foot-3 Keith Kinkaid, who has a 1.98 goals-against average. Schmidtâ€™s ninth goal of the season came with 5:22 left in a first period in which the Bulldogs were outshot 12-5. Shots on goal at one point favored Union 10-1.
After a scoreless second period, UMD had its best period of the game. Kinkaid turned away winger J.T. Brown at 4:37 of the third and the Bulldogs got another power play at 6:13 from one of the least-penalized teams in Division I. Shots by Brown and Justin Faulk yielded rebounds and Fontaine converted from the right circle, for his team-leading 11th power-play goal.
â€œWe didnâ€™t look at the shots on goal during the game, but we didnâ€™t feel like we were getting outplayed by any means,â€ said Schmidt. â€œWe thought (the penalty situation) would eventually come back our way. Our plan was to stay in our lanes defensively, not allow any Grade A chances, and make the best of the chances we got.â€
The lack of power-play success wore on the Dutchmen, who ended the season with three straight losses, including two to Colgate at home March 12-13 in the ECAC playoff quarterfinals. Union, a private school of 2,130 located 200 miles away and which offers no athletic scholarships, had the majority of the crowd on its side. Yet, they had little to cheer. Union did lead in final shots 32-28.
â€œWhen (UMD) gets on a rush, their eyes light up. They want an up-and-down-the-ice game,â€ said Union coach Nate Leaman, whose team was 2-2 against WCHA members this season. â€œI didnâ€™t anticipate a specialty teams game, but thatâ€™s what happened. They are one of the better face off teams weâ€™ve faced. We looked a little young out there at times.â€
UMD finished fourth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and, after a first-round league home sweep of St. Cloud State, was beaten 3-2 in overtime by Bemidji State in the Final Five quarterfinals March 17. This week at practice, coach Scott Sandelin worked the Bulldogs on penalty killing and, in the second period, moved the players of his top power-play unit to different spots, which yielded a goal. UMD also killed the game’s final 79 seconds after Kinkaid was pulled.
â€œThere wasnâ€™t much flow to the game because of penalties, although in the third period, after we scored, we had some offensive zone pressure. It was kind of a grind-it-out game,â€ said Sandelin. â€œI know people were talking about the power plays of the other teams in our region, and if you look at the statistics, I know why. But our power play has been effective the last two or three years and tonight it made the difference in the game.â€
BRIDGEPORT, Conn â€” Fresh legs are a tell-tale sign Kenny Reiter uses as a gauge on game day. The Minnesota Duluth junior goalie said his legs felt particularly strong Friday afternoon to open the NCAA Division I menâ€™s hockey tournament against Union College in the East Regional semifinals.
Fans at Webster Bank Arena would agree. He was on his game, stopping all 32 shots in a 2-0 victory to send No. 9-ranked UMD to todayâ€™s regional title game at 5:30 p.m. CDT against top-ranked Yale (28-6-1).
Reiter needed to be particularly sharp in the gameâ€™s opening minutes as No. 8 Union of Schenectady, N.Y., went on its first power play 29 seconds into the first period, with two more to follow in the first nine minutes. Shots on goal favored Union 10-1 through 12 minutes.
â€œI saw a lot of shots early and I used those to get into the game. That really, really helped calm my nerves and my legs felt really good,â€ said Reiter, who has started seven straight games and has three shutouts this season. â€œThe magnitude of the game had me ready.â€
First-line center Jeremy Welsh, Unionâ€™s No. 2 scorer, had an excellent power-play chance early, and was stopped by Reiter. Nine opposing power plays in all, producing 17 shots, were stopped. Penalty killing aided UMDâ€™s defense.
In a game which became choppy because of 17 penalties, UMD stayed the course and eliminated the regular-season Eastern College Athletic Conference champion. Union had a Division I-leading 31.1 percent power-play efficiency rating entering the game.
â€œWe went in with a penalty-kill plan that would force (Union) to dump the puck and that often allowed us to get control of the puck,â€ said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. â€œKenny was good, and then some.â€
Despite being outshot, UMD went up 1-0 after one period on a Kyle Schmidt power-play goal and led 2-0 in the first seven minutes of the third period on a Justin Fontaine power-play goal. The Bulldogs were 2-of-8 and Union 0-of-9.
Union was No. 2 defensively in Division I, allowing 2.10 goals a game, and No. 5 offensively, scoring 3.69. But UMD shook off early penalties and earned its first shutout since a 3-0 win at Michigan Tech on Jan. 22. Reiter, from Pittsburgh, the teamâ€™s lone East Coast representative, was named the gameâ€™s No. 1 star.
â€œHe was phenomenal. Even the shots he didnâ€™t see were hitting him,â€ said Schmidt.
With 7:40 left in the game, and with Union on another power play, Reiter made a stop and tweaked a hip muscle. He was looked at on the ice by trainer by Suz Hoppe and stayed in the game. He has six career shutouts and is 26-17-5 the last two years.
â€œIf you look at the fact that we had 20 blocked shots, thatâ€™s awesome from my viewpoint, from guys like (defensemen Wade) Beregman and (Brady) Lamb. Bergman is like a sponge on penalty killing, soaking up the shots,â€ said Reiter.
Top-ranked Yale University got a goal from junior right winger Chad Ziegler 3:16 into overtime Friday night to beat No. 22 Air Force 2-1 in an East Regional semifinal before 7,671 fans at Webster Bank Arena.
Yale (28-6-1) faces No. 9 UMD (23-10-6) for the regional title at 5:30 p.m. CDT Saturday.
The teams exchanged second period goals â€” Yale winger Brian Oâ€™Neill scored at 7:28 for his team-leading 19th goal of the season and Air Force center Sean Bertsch, son of former Colorado College player and coach, Mike Bertsch, tied it with 86 seconds left in the second.
Yale, the host school from New Haven, Conn., led in shots on goal 28-23. Yale senior goalie Ryan Rondeau, ranked No. 1 in Division I with a 1.80 goals-against average, made 22 saves, while freshman Jason Torf was in goal for Air Force.
Eastern College Athletic Conference playoff champion Yale has won five straight games, three by shutout margins. Air Force, the Atlantic Hockey Association playoff champion, had an eight-game win streak broken.
Yale had lost to Air Force 4-3 on Nov. 14 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Minnesota Duluth……………. 1-0-1â€”2
Union College………………….. 0-0-0â€”0
First period â€” 1. UMD, Kyle Schmidt 9 (Mike Montgomery, Mike Seidel), 14:38 (pp). Penalties â€” Mike Connolly, UMD (hitting after whistle), :29; Kyle Schmidt, UMD (interference), 6:07; Trent Palm, UMD (hooking), 9:07; Andrew Buote, Union (cross-checking), 13:04; Brady Lamb, UMD (hitting after whistle), 15:48; Jeremy Welsh, Union (slashing), 19:43.
Second period â€” No scoring. Penalties â€” Justin Faulk, UMD (tripping), 1:06; Wayne Simpson, Union (slashing), 5:11; Jack Connolly, UMD (interference), 7:16; Nolan Julseth-White, Union (interference), 9:39; Justin Pallos, Union (interference), 16:28; J.T. Brown, UMD (hooking), 18:19.
Third period â€” 2. UMD, Justin Fontaine 21 (Faulk, Brown), 6:24. Penalties â€” Greg Coburn, Union (hitting from behind), 6:13; Palm, UMD (hitting from behind), 11:46; Kelly Zajac, Union (hooking), 12:49; Shawn Stuart, Union (hooking), 14:07; Lamb, UMD (tripping), 16:28.
Shots on goal â€” UMD 5-7-16â€”28; Union 12-9-11â€”32. Goalies â€” Kenny Reiter (13-7-5), UMD (32 shots-32 saves); Keith Kinkaid (25-10-3), Union (28 shots-26 saves). Power plays â€” UMD 2-of-8, Union 0-of-9. Referees â€” Scott Hansen, Tim Benedetto. Linesmen â€” Chris Milee, Brendan Kelleher. A â€” 7,671 (both games).